I must confess that almost a decade ago when I moved to New York, I had a very small collection of Brazilian music among my many CDs (a total of about 300 back then). There were a couple of discs by Caetano Veloso, Rita Lee, Lulu Santos, Chico Buarque, a handful of bossa nova classics and little else.
The reason for that was that while I was living in Brazil, I had developed almost no interest in Brazilian music mostly because during my formative years (around the mid-80s into the early 90s) radio stations there were not really concentrating on broadcasting their own music – on the airwaves you heard stuff like Queen, Yes, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and other names I cannot recall right now.
The only Brazilian music on the radio then was mostly bad, forgettable pop – artists like Djavan, Buarque, Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento and Tom Jobim and others were relegated to more dedicated stations, even though fans abroad could not get enough of them.
Though much of that changed in the mid-80s (which gave us Paralamas do Sucesso, Barão Vermelho, Legião Urbana, Titãs and Kid Abelha) as the wave of democracy invaded the country, I was still a bit reluctant to follow local artists – partially because I had become a bit of a music snob and also because as the 90s came to a close, the airwaves were filled with stuff like pagode and Axé Music – commercial stuff that had little or no appeal to me unless I was on the street during Carnaval with a few shots of cachaça in my system.
All of that changed when I relocated to New York in the fall of 2000. Once free from Brazilian Top 40, I began to discover (with considerable influence from friends) that there was some great music being played here that was not even really known there – names such as Eliane Elias, Bebel Gilberto, Forró In The Dark, Luca Mundaca, Trio da Paz, Luciana Souza, who all have thriving careers away from home. Discovering them helped me find new affection to the music from the country I sort of left behind.
Today, my Brazilian collection dwarfs all the other CDs I have at home (and yes, I still buy a lot – it’s not all promos). I own most of the relevant recordings of the bossa era and records by both the great masters as the artists I discovered in recent years.
I also have been attending more Brazilian-related shows and writing more and more about their musicians and the music they make. Just in the past three weeks, I have seen Pandeiro Jazz, Gal Costa and Milton Nascimento… heck, I even started a bossa nova band!
Ernest Barteldes is a freelance writer based on Staten Island, New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.